Chasing Venus

Venus, transit of Venus, florilegium, Mrs Morgan's Florilegium

On 22 January 1761, the French astronomer Chappe d’Auteroche arrived in Warsaw. He was on his way to Tobolsk in Russia, to observe the transit of Venus on 6 June that year.

“Chappe’s diary entries from Warsaw show that he was not only an astronomer but also a connoisseur of women – describing in detail their dress and ‘undress’,” notes Andrea Wulf, in this latest extract from her upcoming book ‘Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens.’

“No matter how difficult his voyages, he always found time to investigate women with the taxonomic precision of a scientist,” she writes. “No matter how cold or exhausted he was, he remained an expert of the female sex and remarked appreciatively on their sparking eyes, the ‘slenderness of their waists’, and ‘well-shaped servant maids’. The women in Warsaw, he declared, were beautiful and sociable but also ‘strictly virtuous’.”


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